Workshop, 7th January 2020

Those people who know me well know that I am a man Who Gets Things Done.  I am one who browses the self-improvement selections of his local book shop with a wry smile, having divined and internalised the key concepts of these instructional works for myself many years ago. For a cove such as your loyal correspondent, instructional volumes on Time Management, the Habits of Highly Effective People, Winning Friends and Influencing People, or Taking Fridges to Newcastle or Selling Coals to Inuit are so much paper under the bridge.  I became a self-directed, in-the-moment, task-oriented poet virtually as soon as I opened my first vellum-bound notebook and scribbled out my first stanza with the freshly sharpened HB.

As a result of this meticulous organisation, I am a master at the art of filling one’s time.  Not for me the ‘writer’s block’ which afflicts so many.  I am rarely to be caught staring at the blank page or flickering screen.  This is due to my to-do list approach to poetry writing, to wit, I have a ready supply of poetry themes to hand next to the blotter and if I get stuck with one idea during one of my meticulously-timed writing sessions, I simply move onto the next.  In this way I can be sure that when my Man shimmers in with the steaming cup of needful, I will have a Palladian Villa of stanzas constructed, ready for a rub-down and a top coat.

Very little Polyfilla was required by this week’s crop of Pitshanger doyens.  Alan Chambers led off with a not-altogether uncritical dig at the Christmas Pud and its after-effects. Rithika Nadipalli quite by chance picked up on the festival’s dread aftermath with a sonnet on the impossibility of consuming the Christmas Dinner.  John Hurley paid close attention to the woodwork and dug deep into his own past with memories of the coastline where he grew up in Ireland, now a little gentrified.  Doig Simmonds finished the architraves in a contrasting shade with a poem eluding to a word missing from the world today.  Pat Francis expertly cut in with a fine brush, working her way around John Milton and his gift for the perfect sonnet.  Peter Francis added a false door to ensure the room maintained its symmetry, completing a ramble through thoughts of home while at a distance.  Nick Barth added a little grotesquery to the alcoves taking a sly look at people-watching, or were those people watching him?  Martin Choules will have nothing less than Italian marble for the mantlepiece he leans on and tells us about a new super-earth.  Finally, Roger Beckett has chosen a painting of a bucolic landscape to go above the fireplace, as he developed his theme of Art.

I think it was Thomas Crown who opined; ‘Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, January is the pivot in the circles that you find in the windmills of my mind.’  I believe the notorious billionaire bank robber was trying to say that this is the time to make your New Year’s Resolutions.  For me that is the list of poems that I resolve to write this season, and it is a list I am happy to partially preview here.  I have always thought of myself as a proactive as opposed to a reactive poet.  However, the first few weeks of Jan have been a fertile grist to the noggin’s mill.  With that, here are just a few of the ideas that have popped their heads above the mental parapet since the bongs:

-Beyond Brexit BoJo will bob in Beaujolais no more

-Brothers in Arms

-Ken’s Koala’s kalamatously kremated eukalyptus kopse

-Nancy Pelosi packed the Trump and took him off to the circus (media, that is), with a trumpety Trump, Trump, Trump

-The Waistline

-Corbyn’s confirmatory referendum concept copped a resounding rejection.

-The Futile Fear of Farage

-The Benedict Cumberbatch Dominic Cummings Rehabilitation Dynamo

-In Camden Town did Sadiq Khan a Stately Pleasure Dome Decree (just in time for the BBC 6Music Festival)

I have ideas like these with alarming regularity, usually following a fitful, cheese-fuelled afternoon nap.  I have already appraised my publisher of the sort of ideas I am working on – the stunned silence he gave me following my passing of the latest list across the restaurant table was all the encouragement I needed for the labours of year ahead.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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